How to build a good doctor–patient relationship

Creating and maintaining a good relationship with your doctor is key to getting the right care at the right time. 

At the heart of a good doctor and patient relationship is good communication. It takes participation from both sides and should be based on trust, honesty, and respect.

Here are six tips on how to prepare for a doctor’s appointment and get the most out of the relationship

1. Prepare for your appointment ahead of time

Create a list of your symptoms and how long you’ve had each of them, as well as a list of the medicines you take and the dosage. This will help your doctor diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment.

Also, make a list of all the questions or concerns you have. Bring the list with you to go through each item one by one.

It’s a good idea to work on your lists several days before your appointment to make sure they’re complete. 

2. Consider bringing someone with you

Having a trusted family member or friend with you can be very helpful when it comes to understanding information shared with you during your appointment and remembering how to put instructions into action after your appointment.

3. Be honest

You may be tempted to gloss over, or simply not mention, parts of your medical history that make you feel embarrassed or ashamed. Remember, your doctor is not there to judge you, but care for you in the best way possible. 

Work with your doctor by sharing all the details of your mental and physical health. Tell your doctor about your goals, successes, fears, and shortfalls. Only when you’re honest can you be sure you're getting what you need.

4. Speak up

Doctor’s appointments can feel brief and jam-packed with information. Whenever there’s a medical term you don’t understand, a topic that concerns you, or instructions you’re not clear about, say so. You’ll get the most out of your appointment when you and your doctor have clear lines of communication. 

5. Take notes or record your visit 

Having your own notes, in your own words, is sometimes the best way to keep what’s most important to you top of mind. If you don’t want to miss a single word, think about recording your visit.

6. Ask for a recap 

At the end of your appointment, ask your doctor to go over everything, highlight what’s most important, and give you a written summary that includes follow-up instructions.